Welcome to the February issue of Corrections Today. Our theme this month is gangs and security threat groups (STGs), a correctional subculture that influences our overall operation as we perform the basic functions of our jobs. But, what is a subculture? According to the dictionary, a subculture is an ethnic, regional, economic or social group that exhibits characteristic patterns of behavior sufficient to distinguish it from others within an embracing culture of society. A correctional subculture, then, is any of the various groups we deal with every day including gangs, inmates with mental illnesses, substance abusers, juveniles and females. In this issue we examine how managing gangs and security threat groups impacts our daily operations and how we do our jobs. Managing these various groups adds additional operational concerns and challenges, not to mention financial constraints, whether these groups are in our jails, prisons, juvenile facilities or on probation.
Taking a proactive approach to managing correctional subcultures, such as gangs, helps us deal with individual members of the subculture. Philosophically, we need to approach members of this subculture with the attitude that they are not bad people but people who made bad choices. We need to provide them with programs and opportunities that give them options upon their return to our communities. While the programs can range from intense therapeutic options to volunteer-run alcoholics/narcotics anonymous meetings, the inmates are being given a choice to move to a new subculture.
As we approach our growing gang population, we need to identify who these individuals are and think about how we are going to manage them while in our custody. Once they are identified, what educational opportunities are being offered to inform them that being in a gang is not a good thing? Can we get them to find ways to meet the unfulfilled needs in their lives that led them to a gang in the first place? And, how can we glean information from them that can be beneficial in eradicating gang activity? We have discovered that once a dialogue is cultivated with gang members, a wealth of information can be obtained and passed on to police and prosecutors...